It is no secret that the past year of Zoom classes and limited face-to-face interaction has rendered an entirely new college experience: one that lacks the typical daily excitements that come with being a student. 

Despite the disappointments of virtual classes that many college students continue to face, several Emory students have made the most of the circumstances by studying in new settings. For Tyson Zhang (22B), the prospect of attending college in a novel location excited him.

“It’s kind of a cool opportunity to explore new places since I don’t exactly have to be in Atlanta,” Zhang said. 

Along with a small group of friends, Zhang traveled from his home in Virginia to Colorado and Utah during the fall, where he hiked frequently and learned to ski. Now, he is taking classes from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. When making the choice to study away from both home and Atlanta, Zhang cited numerous social and academic benefits.

“Overall, I think living with friends is just more fun,” Zhang said. “At home, there isn’t really a good study environment. Whereas here, you know, all of us are college students on Zoom, and there is a more academic environment, and I feel like I can be more focused on my work.”

Tyson Zhang (22B) hikes to the top of Quandary Peak, a 14,265 foot tall mountain in Summit County, Colorado. (Tyson Zhang)

While Zhang yearned for the chance to be safely surrounded by friends throughout this school year, sophomore Andrew Shulman (23B) chose to study in a place that would allow him to further explore his religion.

“When Emory moved online due to COVID-19, I saw a tremendous opportunity ahead of me,” Shulman wrote in an email to the Wheel. “After discussing with my parents and friends, I realized I could continue my secular education while pursuing a religious one.”

While he is still enrolled at Emory part time, Shulman has been studying at Yeshiva Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem since this past fall.

“I was introduced to Ohr Somayach by a friend at Emory and soon became enamored with it,” Shulman added. “Ohr Somayach offers incredible mentorship, access to Judaic literature and a supportive community, all while being in Judaism’s holiest city.”

Between in-person lectures, Emory Zoom classes, meals and prayer times, Shulman’s days are packed to the brim with activities, but he has still found the time to ponder how his experience abroad will shape his future.

“I’m hoping to gain the tools I need to continue my growth outside of Yeshiva and help those around me, making the world a brighter place,” Shulman noted.

Andrew Shulman (23B) stands at the Hula Nature Reserve in the Galilee region of Israel. (Andrew Shulman)

Although Zhang and Shulman originally planned to spend their entire year traveling, James Chapman (24C) lived on campus first semester, and his dissatisfaction with the beginning of his Emory experience led him to explore other options for the spring.

“I just felt like I didn’t have any support structure,” Chapman said. “I was never really getting past the point of just trying to survive. And so I was like, this might not be the best environment for me. I think something needs to change.”

Chapman remarked that “maintaining independence” was important to him, but the lack of social opportunities on campus discouraged him from returning. Through his research, Chapman found that he could book extended stays at Airbnbs in various locations for heavily discounted prices. Noting that he did not want to feel like a tourist, Chapman decided to complete his Emory classes online this semester while visiting three small towns: Detroit Lakes, Minnesota; Dove Creek, Colorado; and New London, Connecticut. 

“The opportunity to live somewhere and, like, sort of actually become a local … was really appealing to me,” Chapman said.

James Chapman (24C) poses in front of Washington Avenue, the main street in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, where he currently resides. (James Chapman)

Although Chapman considered transferring after last semester, he realized that his time did not accurately reflect the full Emory experience and decided to return to campus next fall to give Emory another try. 

His one piece of advice? 

“Take risks,” he stated. “That’s what this is really all about. You’re really only gonna grow in important ways when you put yourself out there.”